Under Glass, Clod Ensemble, Wales Millennium Centre

November 24, 2017 by

In the words of the Rocky Horror Show:  In another dimension, With voyeuristic intention. Well secluded I see all… You cannot be more secluded than in pitch black and all audiences have, I suppose, voyeuristic intentions and the perception challenging, shifting, questioning environment of Under Glass was another dimension. As this production has been touring and continuously developing since being created for Sadler’s Wells a decade ago I could, but won’t, continue the Time Warp analogy.

We are bewitched by the beauty of the dancers/ moving sculptures, befuddled by what each of them is communicating to us and perhaps to one another, slightly light-headed at being in that near totally black space as the individual seven performance pieces are presented in exquisite lighting, only to disappear into the void and another to appear, a tinse bemused when there is enough light to see other audience members’ faces staring at the artists’  bodies as they lithely, athletically, disturbingly, form shapes, contortions, subtle movements of hands, toes, eyes and, yes, all under/behind/in glass (well almost all).

The performers are either solo women (predominantly), one man in an office, and two on a round bed surrounded by glass as we looked down on them as they twisted, interacted, caressed with feet, stretched, curled and resumed their slumber, like an unruly pair of chromosomes on a petri dish.

The music is at first Bizet’s Carmen but then Paul Clark’s pulsating score takes over the momentum and we start to watch the scenarios being illuminated, the eyes-flashing Wallflower (Maëva Berthelot), in rectangular screen (like a zoo animal) wearing a small green dress lion-like exploring her space and variously climbing the wall and pacing; Sachi Kimura in a large Jam Jar, stripped down to underwear making different postures as light flashes on and off in what looks more like a specimen jar. On a raised tier another glass upright box looking down at us is Spectators, Elisabeth Schilling, screaming expressions of angst and frustration confined to a plush box with red chair and wearing her chic black dress;   and then we have Sam Coren in Office, at first calmly sorting papers, then struggling with the desk lamp, dropping something behind the desk, struggling in the cramp space to retrieve it and change his clothes






Individual but somehow unifying the ensemble work of individuality and I am sure unintentionally is Sarah Cameron in housewife garb including an apron, squeezed into a tube, intermittently reciting The Village poem by Alice Oswald into a Telephone (the name of this scene) about what she can observe in her doomed village community.

The two break-outs are where we are fumbling and slightly tripping (non-chemically of course) to a shallow glass box where we are invited to watch Silvia Mercuriali’s End of the World Cabaret  on a bed of grass as she explored her environment and space and then the two in bed;  Twins, Hayley Carmichael and Riccardo T.

The performance returns to the original group of glass ware for more short scenes, more of the fabulously recited poetry, and then we see all of our specimens for the briefest of times and then black silence.

The creators, Paul Clark and Suzy Willson have again brought to Cardiff a work, lit by Hansjtirg Schmidt and designed by Sarah Blenkinsop, that just grabs you with originality, a little wonderment of the good kind and, with reference to my light Rocky Horror Show early puns, a medical examination like probing and reflection.

Oh well, one more, Rocky Horror allusion….

So come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab

I see you shiver with anticipation

But maybe the rain isn’t really to blame

So I’ll remove the cause but not the symptom

Perhaps just as appropriately for this cross between an operating theatre with viewing gallery and specimens jar exhibition; I once had a damning four word comment on a York University undergraduate English Literature essay; We Murder to Dissect, from Wordsworth’s The Tables Turns.


In case you do not know it:

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

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